You didn’t want to know. You didn’t want to see it like that, but there it is. Mental illness that feels a little too close to whatever the place is where you exist. Schizophrenia in its fascinating, poetic genius. Psychosis, slit down the middle, its skin pinned back, and the full revelation of bloody words, words, words.
Pick a poem, any poem from Darkness Never Far [©2010 Coffeetown Press], the third collection of poetry by Matthew Freeman, and you’ll find yourself instantly pulled into a story, a character, or some twisted viewpoint—something that stays with you for the next few days as you mull it over, sucking on a memorable line or two, like a cough drop to soothe that irritating little truth.
Here’s his short “What People Think”:
It feels so good to be cold now,
beautiful and frozen,
easier to walk with one’s head up,
easier to sit by the fountain
and unburden oneself of a dime---
even if that wish is for fire.
Freeman’s occasionally long, almost always rambling verse is gritty and real, full of personality (and personalities), urban St. Louis scenery and experience in a Bukowski-esque fashion. But unlike a lot of Bukowski, there is real craft going on here too. Freeman teaches phallic drunken lessons to swarthy prep school students, evolving into “a spectre between the lips” in “Ass-Kicking, Delivered at Blueberry Hill.” We feel the trees breathe with him in “Finally Get Born.” You live his indefinition in lines like “It’s so easy to know more about water than me” from “Cascado for Hope and Amanda.” He’s delusional, sure, but you find yourself, and others, justifying his grandiosity, and nodding in appreciation when he says “could I be getting close? Still miles to go. / My sister says I’m better than Rimbaud” in “The Return to Repression.”
Arranged in three parts: “Present,” “Absent,” and “Finished,” Darkness Never Far is a bleakly hopeful, 45-poem collection striving toward finding a self, if not self-actualization. While Matthew Freeman doesn’t quite get there-- to love, to sex, to normality and whatever that looks like-- the journey is what you care about. You want to believe, right along with Freeman, that he can levitate, that his problem is actually “Jethro Tull Dissociative Disorder,” that “the neutral can course itself in the smoke.” You understand how Heavy Metal Mike “really did look good in a way,” and you get what Matthew means when he knows that Mike contains some sort of secret to this thing called life. You read the final line “please say these poems are not about nothing” in his “Piss Poor Parenting” and you want to scream his validation.
Damnit. You hadn’t thought about it like that. He’s right, goddamnit.